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Max Muncy and Donovan Solano finding success after toiling in the minors

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A pair of minor league deals by Farhan Zaidi paying major league dividends for two teams

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers began the 2018 season with an infield that included Max Muncy alternating between corner spots and Donovan Solano at shortstop.

Both were signed to minor league deals by then-Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, Muncy at age 26 after getting discarded by the A’s, and Solano at 30 after leaving the Yankees.

When Muncy got called up to the Dodgers in mid-April 2018, he was hitting .313/.421/.563 with two homers and two doubles in 38 plate appearances in Triple-A. Muncy since then has been one of the best hitters in the majors, with a 145 wRC+ and 74 home runs with the Dodgers, the eighth-best and seventh-best in baseball during that span.

Solano at the point Muncy was called up in 2018 had five straight multi-hit games, including three hits three times, and was 15-for-34 (.441) to start the season. He is off to another ridiculous start, only this time in the majors with the Giants.

The veteran infielder never got called up with the Dodgers in 2018, but hit .318/.353/.430 while playing three positions for Oklahoma City.

“I remember him being in front of our guys in spring training and just talking about how grateful he was to be in a big league camp. He was a guy that just needed an opportunity,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday. “He’ll play anywhere, he can catch the baseball, he watches baseball, he studies it. He’s a tough out who’ll use the whole field. Those guys might not be carriers for a ball club, but they’re certainly a nice addition, and right now he’s certainly doing a lot of good things for that Giants club.”

Solano signed another minor league deal in 2019 with Zaidi, this time in San Francisco as a non-roster invitee in spring training. He made it up to the majors by May, and had a fantastic half-season with the Giants last year, hitting .330/.360/.456 in 81 games, the fourth-best batting average in the majors among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances.

This year, Solano has been even better. He’s a ridiculous 21-for-47 (.447), leading the majors in batting average, and tied for third in the National League in RBI (14) to go along with his six doubles, .460 on-base percentage (4th in MLB), and 207 wRC+.

Solano had a relatively tame opening series against the Dodgers, starting only half of the four games and going 3-for-10 with a double, though he drove in three runs in the two Giants’ wins. He’s batting nearly .500 since (18-for-37), while splitting time between third base, second base, and shortstop.

Muncy had nearly the opposite trajectory in the early going. He doubled and walked on Opening Day, then homered twice in the Dodgers’ second straight win to start the season. But then Muncy had a 5-for-43 (.116) string, including 0 for his last 12 before homering in Friday’s win over the Giants.

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